Aries Clean Energy
March 20, 2020
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With spring here, we thought it would be a good time to review what people are saying about biochar. It’s growing in popularity and much is published about it weekly. Biochar is often used as a soil amendment due to its carbon rich properties making it great for your plants, lawns, and gardens. But did you know that it also finds uses other than agriculture?
Soil and plant enhancement
“Biochar can and should be used as a soil enhancement because its carbon properties capture and hold water that leads to deeper roots and increased growth,” said Dr. Forbes Walker, Professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Walker and his students have been using biochar from an Aries Clean Energy plant on several test sites across the state of Tennessee. Full results have not been published, but early results do show a positive difference when biochar has been added to a field or a crop. https://ariescleanenergy.com/article-biochar-opportunities-knock-agricultural-research-may-open-tennessee-biochar-market/
Work by University of Tennessee graduate student Nastaran Basiri Jahromi, has demonstrated that hardwood biochar can be used to replace part of the growing media used to produce container plants in Tennessee. Her work looked at using up to 25% biochar in a pine-bark growing medium to improve the water holding capacity and greatly reduce irrigation needs. The results show that — for hydrangeas grown in a greenhouse — 32 to 72% less water was needed. https://ariescleanenergy.com/article-biochar-opportunities-knock-agricultural-research-may-open-tennessee-biochar-market/
Kathleen Draper, U.S. Director, Ithaka Institute for Carbon Intelligence, wrote in a recent article: One of the original markets for biochar was agriculture. This still remains a large market, though the economics can be challenging in certain farming scenarios. The impact biochar has on soils and different crops is inconsistent, as it tends to have a greater yield-boosting impact on poorer soils and in regions where it is difficult to build a deep organic soil layer. Promising ag markets for biochar must necessarily focus where the economic impact is higher than the cost of biochar. In drought-challenged areas where farmers pay for water, biochar can help improve water management. In certain types of perennial agriculture, biochar use can get trees into fruit or nut production earlier. As certain types of biochar can reduce plant uptake of metals, biochar use could mean the difference between being able to market your products or not when farmers find they have toxic soils. https://ariescleanenergy.com/article-biochar-if-you-make-it-will-they-come/
In a recent Biomass Magazine article, editor Ron Kotrba writes: Biochar, which has been used for millennia, is gaining significant market traction for its versatility in dozens of applications and its primary environmental benefit of sequestering carbon indefinitely. “In more technical terms,” describes the International Biochar Initiative, “biochar is produced by thermal decomposition of organic material (biomass such as wood, manure or leaves) under limited supply of oxygen, and at relatively low temperatures (less than 700 degrees Celsius). This process mirrors the production of charcoal, which is perhaps the most ancient industrial technology developed by humankind. Biochar can be distinguished from charcoal—used mainly as a fuel—in that a primary application is use as a soil amendment with the intention to improve soil functions and to reduce emissions from biomass that would otherwise naturally degrade to greenhouse gases.”
While biochar’s primary application is a soil amendment, Tom Miles, IBI board member and principal of T.R. Miles Technical Consultants Inc., says there are at least 55 documented uses of biochar listed in various articles. “It can be used in cement, or as a filler in plastics, also wallboard, building products, or added to anaerobic digesters to improve gas production at dairies,” he says. http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/16814/fighting-climate-change-with-ancient-technology
The Biochar Journal reports: Biochar is much too valuable for it to be just added to soil without using it at least once for other beneficial purposes. Basic uses include: drinking water filtration, sanitation of human and kitchen wastes, and as a composting agent. All of these uses have been documented in many different pre-industrial cultures. In the modern world, the uses multiply: adsorber in functional clothing, insulation in the building industry, as carbon electrodes in super-capacitors for energy storage, food packaging, wastewater treatment, air cleaning, silage agent or feed supplement. This link includes the Journal’s list of 55 uses for biochar. https://www.biochar-journal.org/en/ct/2
Ready to try some biochar?
There are many companies manufacturing and selling biochar in the marketplace. All have similar properties and will do a good job. Not all biochar is created equal. Some are made from wood and some are a mixture of other products. Be sure and educate yourself before you make a purchase.
Aries GREEN™ Biochar is a byproduct made at an Aries downdraft gasification plant from waste wood that is being diverted from landfills. Gasification is a thermo-chemical process that is environmentally safe and generates green power behind the meter.
Here at Aries, we have had our biochar tested by third-party labs for certification purposes. Our Aries GREEN™ Biochar has earned both the USDA and the International Biochar Institute’s (IBI) certifications. This ensures this product is safe for public use.
The USDA Certified Biobased Product label displays a product’s biobased content, which is the portion of a product that comes from a renewable source, such as plant, animal, marine, or forestry feedstocks. Aries GREEN™ is 96% carbon. Utilizing renewable, biobased materials displaces the need for non-renewable petroleum-based chemicals.
The USDA says biobased products, through petroleum displacement, have played an increasingly important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate global climate change. Biobased products are cost-comparative, readily available, and perform as well as or better than their conventional counterparts.
A primary goal of the IBI Biochar Certification Program is to create consumer and marketplace confidence and quality assurances around biochar by creating a standardized, recognized system to certify biochar that meets the IBI Biochar Standards.
The biochar community recognizes IBI as a credible brand. Buyers are assured that biochar with the IBI Certified™ biochar seal meets the IBI Biochar Standards for material characteristics and passes screening tests for certain potential toxicants.
You can read more about the certification process here:
You can purchase Aries GREEN™ Biochar here: https://ariescleanenergy.com/biochar/biochar-sales/
Other sources for personal research include but not limited to
- International Biochar Institute https://biochar-international.org/biochar/
- US Biochar Institute https://biochar-us.org/biochar-introduction
- Utah State University https://extension.usu.edu/dirtdiggersdigest/2018/what-is-biochar
- Colorado State University https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/agriculture/biochar-in-colorado-0-509/
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture https://extension.tennessee.edu/publications/Documents/W829.pdf
- For more information on the USDA program, https://www.biopreferred.gov